Thursday, November 03, 2005

DAILY MITZVAH (Maimonides): Friday, November 4, 2005


Cheshvan 2, 5766 * November 4, 2005

D A I L Y M I T Z V A H (M A I M O N I D E S )

Today's Mitzvot (Day 63 of 339):

Positive Mitzvah 153

Positive Mitzvah 153: The New Moon - Calculating the Months and Years

-Exodus 12:2 "This month shall be to you the beginning of months"

Have you noticed how the moon changes its shape throughout the

At times, it shines brightly like a cream-colored ball.

Other times, we can compare it to a slice of honeydew. On some
nights, it looks like a split banana! Sometimes, you can't see
it at all!

While in bed watching the moon, take a peek through your window,
shut your eyes for a moment and imagine a scene taking place many
years ago in Eretz Yisrael.

In the Great Beit-Din, the chief Rabbi sits in his honored place,
greeting the Jew who just arrived in the court.

"I saw the moon last night, Rabbi, and I believe it is the beginning
of a new month," reports the Jew.

The Rabbi motions to a chart with many different moon shapes hanging
on the wall. "Is this the shape you saw?" asks the Rabbi, pointing
to a particular shape.

The man who witnessed the moon would be questioned until the judges
were satisfied. When the judges heard proper testimony from at
least two witnesses, they would declare that a new month had arrived.

Determining the new month is very important to the Jewish calendar.

HaShem commands us to celebrate specific holidays in their set seasons
and on particular dates. In order to fulfill these commandments, we
must know when a new month begins and count the days accordingly.

This way, we will be assured of celebrating the holiday on the
correct date.

The Great Beit-Din (Sanhedrin) in Eretz Yisrael is commanded to
determine and calculate the counting of the months.

The Rabbis knew when the moon would first begin to shine again. They
informed the people to be alert and immediately report their findings.

Proper eye-witness testimony would serve as proof of the new month's
arrival. Afterwards, news of the new moon would be spread promptly
enabling all Jews to count the days of the month in a unified manner.

In this way, the Jewish calendar was set and followed.

In addition, HaShem commanded that the holidays of Pesach and Sukkot
be celebrated in the spring and fall.

The Jewish calendar is a "Lunar Calendar" which means that it follows
the phases of the moon. However, the seasons change according to the
sun's yearly cycle.

There is an eleven and a quarter day difference between the cycle
of the sun and the twelve lunar months.

Because of this, we might reach the proper Hebrew date for Passover,
but the spring season will not yet have arrived!

There is a way to overcome this problem.

If such a situation arises, the Rabbis would foresee it and the Beit-
Din would declare a leap-year.

The last month of the Hebrew calendar - Adar, would be doubled,
(First-Adar and Second-Adar) and Pesach would then arrive in the
spring time!

The Torah commands the Beit-Din to calculate the months and declare
the necessary leap years. The manner in which it was done, as
described above, applies only to the time of the Great Beit-Din in
Eretz Yisrael.

Today, we follow the Jewish calendar which was established by Rabbi
Hillel HaNasi, a descendant of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi.

He calculated the precise arrivals of the new moon and the years
which would be considered leap years.

We rely on this calendar until the arrival of Mashiach, when we
will return to the original method of the eye-witness report.

* * *

PLEASE NOTE: The Daily Mitzvah schedule runs parallel to the daily
study of 3 chapters of Maimonides' 14-volume code. There are
instances when the Mitzvah is repeated a few days consecutively
while the exploration of the same Mitzvah continues in the in-depth



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